MotoGP: Safety woes at Red Bull Ring

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The weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix action at the Red Bull Ring was plagued with rider safety concerns and even threats of the first rider strike since Misano in 1989, after a series of crashes during Moto2 practice highlighted concerns first raised by former world champion Casey Stoner twelve months ago.

With a number of guardrails close to the track and with corner entry speeds being so fast thanks to the ultra-high-speed nature of the fastest track on the MotoGP calendar, Stoner questioned after a test last August whether the track was safe for bikes capable of 210mph, especially in wet weather conditions.

Those concerns, shared by many others on the grid, were further compounded during Friday’s Moto2 free practice session, when the combination of heavy rain and the nature of the weather-resistant asphalt at the mountainous circuit meant that the first corner in particular was like sheet ice.

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With a number of riders playing skittles with each other and their machines as pins, Cal Crutchlow was among those afterwards who admitted that he didn’t think that it would be safe to ride at the track if it had rained on Sunday.

“If it rained, I had no interest in riding, because there’s barriers everywhere. People were crashing in a straight line, ending up going left after crashing at right hand corners, going everywhere. Until those barriers are moved, I have no interest in it.

“We’ve asked them to move them for next year, but it sounds like they’ll do some work but not move the barriers that are absolutely critical. It’s the most dangerous circuit of the year, and if it had rained on Sunday there’d have been twenty bikes on the ground at the first corner and the other four cleaned out by the rest as they braked. It’s impossible to ride it in the wet.”

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer